Thursday, March 26, 2009
Why Curt Schilling Belongs in the Hall
I'm a pretty loyal guy. For a player to earn a special place in my heart, he usually has to be a lifelong Boston guy. At the very least, he has to have spent the bulk of his career here.
Curt Schilling is different. He technically spent five seasons in Boston. He was only truly healthy for one of them.
At least until the ALCS.
I'm amused by the Hall of Fame conversation that's been going on in Boston since Schilling announced his retirement. While many people feel he's Hall of Fame caliber, in the end, his statistics just don't measure up.
Apparently, the Hall of Fame is about nothing more than statistics.
Just ask Jim Rice.
To me, a Hall of Fame player is more than just statistics. Not that Schilling is a complete slouch when it comes to statistics.
He ended his career with 3,116 strikeouts, 15th all-time. 3,000 strikeouts is one of those "magic" statistics. Of the eligible pitchers who have reached that milestone, only Bert Blyleven hasn't been inducted.
But that's the only real "Hall of Fame" level statistic Schilling has achieved. His 216 wins are more than a few Hall of Famers, but less than most of them. He never won a Cy Young.
Most importantly, he was never the best pitcher. There was always someone who was better. Whether it was Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson, someone was always just a little better than he was.
Call it bad timing (had he played in the '80s, he would have been the best pitcher of the decade), call it whatever you want. It's a very valid argument against his getting into the Hall.
Add it all up, and he's a borderline Hall of Famer; one that in the end, probably doesn't measure up.
But there has to be special circumstances. Some players do things that transcend statistics and catapult them into the Hall of Fame.
Schilling was injured in Game 1 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. So he could pitch again in Game 6, an elimination game, he agreed to an experimental operation.
The team doctor practiced the procedure a few days earlier on a cadaver. Or, I should say, invented the procedure. Given that it had never been done before.
The team doctor sutured the skin around the dislocated tendon in Schilling's right ankle down to the deep tissue to form an artificial sheath to prevent the tendon from snapping against the bone.
I can't even type that without cringing.
He attached it with three stitches.
One of those stitches came loose during the game, resulting in the famous bloody sock.
Schilling pitched brilliantly, won the game, and the Red Sox went on to defeat the Yankees in seven games.
Before Game 2 of the World Series, they performed the same operation. This time, the doctor used four stitches in the hopes that the ankle would be more stable.
But one of the stitches irritated a nerve. Schilling could barely walk.
But he pitched anyway.
Schilling was Kirk Gibson, Willis Reed, Jack Youngblood ... he was everything they were and more. He was brilliant, winning the eighth postseason game of his career.
Leading the Red Sox to their first world championship since 1918.
Three years later, pitching with a completely dead arm that would later require surgery, he won three postseason games while helping lead the Red Sox to their second World Series championship of his short tenure.
He ended his career with a ridiculous and unmatched 11-2 postseason record. He won three World Series championships.
Not everyone likes Schilling. He talks too much. He's too opinionated. He endorsed John McCain (not a popular move in the liberal northeast).
But you don't have to like the man to recognize what he was.
Let there be no doubt. No doubt whatsoever.
Curt Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he should go in wearing a Red Sox cap.